Don Cherry was an enigma. In the early days of his career the trumpeter was part of the scene that took jazz through several changes. He did this playing with Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane where the music was transformed into something electrifying. But he also did it with Gato Barbieri, Nana Vasconcelos and Okay Temiz, among others, where his music absorbed different world strains. All of it comprises an interesting body of work that showed not only Cherry's strengths but also his weaknesses.
Cherry had a residency at the Café Montmartre in Copenhagen in 1966. When a decision was made to record the band, bassist Cameron Brown had to make way for Bo Stief because of a local labor laws stipulation that there had to be one Danish musician in the band. The other members were Karl Berger (vibes), Aldo Romano (drums), Barbieri (tenor sax), with multi-instrumentalist Cherry sticking to the trumpet.
Cherry was an adventurer and his band serves him well. They acknowledge the source and then find their own founts of inspiration led by Cherry. They dive in and surface from several stylistic genres, keeping interest pumping all along the way.
The broadcast has been released in two volumes. The first Live at Café Montmartre 1966 Volume One, (ESP Disk) was released in 2007. This volume starts with "Orfeu Negro," a blast of free air from Cherry settling into a mournful line from Barbieri. Cherry noodles quick interjections before he favors melody over fragment as the whole seethes, settles and then jumps up again as Cherry and Berger find the openings to slip in bop, bossa and free jousting.
The band pays tribute to Albert Ayler on "Suite for Albert Ayler" setting up their journey with a march that is Ayler's "Ghost." From there it moves into a saucy samba before they fancy bop. Cherry is at the vanguard, constantly divining the next bend.
The set ends with the appropriately titled "Complete Communion." The band forges a tempestuous run, with Barbieri and Cherry playing with high intensity. Berger rattles the vibes, but keeps melody in focus while Stief and Romano drive the rhythm with high octane energy.
It has been over 40 years since the performance and it has not lost its impact.
Personnel: Don Cherry: trumpet; Gato Barbieri: tenor sax; Karl Berger: vibes; Bo Stief: bass; Aldo Romano: drums.